Month: August 2015

On Long Term Thinking

This is an incredible time to be alive. The past 100 years have brought unparalleled levels of change. The world has changed, in many ways for the better, in many ways for the worse.

Infectious disease, the mighty foe that laid cities and armies to race over millennia has been brought low. The agricultural revolution has produced more food than ever before and lead to a population explosion like nothing seen in our species history. There has been positive social change in levels of equality for many groups, although many would argue we still have a long way to come.

But we have also harmed the environment with industrial pollution, beginning to change the environment in ways we might not be able to reverse. We have destroyed ecosystems to plant crops and pumped in inputs to squeeze out the last of the fertility from our soil with no thought to replenishment. Aquifers are running dry and cities are choked in smog.

Many of these problems come from the changes we have made to the world over the past century, but also stem primarily from one thing that has not changed. Our mindset is still narrowly focused. There was a time in our history that people only thought in a daily basis, procuring our next meal and making the tools we needed to survive. There have been times in which people have thought on much longer time horizons. The aqueducts of rome, the series of interstates and bridges that cross our country today are evidence of that fact. But it seems that in other areas or in other times, the focus has once again shifted to the short term view. I suppose maybe it is more about the proportion of people who think long term and there have always been a mix of short term and long term thinkers. In my experience, short term thinking is remarkably prevalent in today’s world.

I see short term thinking in the use of our country’s aquifers. Selling bottled water and other drinks for remarkable profit without any view toward aquifer replenishment rates. I see short term thinking in the burning of cheap fossil fuels without thinking of the environmental costs of the pollutants associated. Farming monoculture crops and never replacing or replenishing the soil and nutrients lost. Focusing on short term profits and cutting costly research programs that could produce valuable breakthroughs in the future. Those in positions of power, always fighting for more money for themselves, leading to income inequality. Soaring costs of tuition exploiting the youth fighting for an education that can help them in their fight to make the world a better place. These and more all seem to be looming crisis points in the world’s future.

Let’s think long term. Let’s think about the consequences of our actions for the lives of our children and grandchildren. Let’s engineer a more sustainable world and figure out how to get more from less. Let’s stop trying to get the biggest piece of pie we can as soon as possible and try to figure out how to make a bigger pie every day. We owe it to future generations, so that there will be future generations.

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A New Start

A New Start

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(Picture found here:

https://goo.gl/IFwGr6)

Disclamer- not based on current events 😉

Thoughts on Morality

Thoughts on Morality

The guiding tenets of my moral beliefs to a large extent can be distilled into two well known ideas. The first is the golden rule: treat others the way you wish to be treated. The next is, when considering an action, even if insignificant, ponder if the world would be better or worse if everyone did this regularly.

One important aspect of this is that if you wish to be treated with respect and kindness, and to be helped when in need, you should treat others in the same way. Part of this can be extended to tolerance. It is all too easy to deride others for mistakes, but all humans make mistakes, including ourselves. We have a ready excuse as to why our mistake was understandable or forgivable, and crave understanding and leniency. This comes from a knowledge of our personal circumstances, everything that has made us believe, think, and act the way we do, the misconceptions we may hold. Strive to see that others similarly have circumstances that have caused them to act or think the way they do, and that if we want leniency, we must extend it to others. But when our flaws are pointed out it is important to consider them, and work to change them for the better, if we wish to see the same in others.

We would like others to listen to our opinions without automatically declaring them false because they conflict with others’ already held perceptions. So why are we so eager to dismiss other’s beliefs? Personal beliefs are just that- personal. They are affected by the myriad circumstances in which we grew up. We must follow our own creed and let others follow theirs, as long as they do not harm others. They will have to answer to the universe in their own way, and we in ours.

If we want people to help us when we are in need, we must go out of our way to help others. If we do not want others to take advantage of us when we are weak, we must help others in the same situation. Always remember that if you try to use others to make the world better for yourself, the mass of humanity sinks under the weight of your ego. If we all work together to make the world a better place, however, we all rise to new heights and everyone benefits in ways that were unimaginable before.

Obviously we should not take advantage of others if we do not wish to be taken advantage of. But in cases that may seem insignificant on a personal level, it is easy to say “I am not hurting anyone.” In this case, the second tenet reveals its value. The first is a rule that is important for individual interactions and group interactions of a relatively small scale. The second is a tenet vital to the existence of large societies. Should I throw that plastic bottle in the trash instead of the recycling? It is only one bottle and there is only a small probability it will be released into the environment on its way to the landfill. But multiply the problem by the 25 times you do it a year and the 7 billion people in the world, and it becomes a problem. If we choose these actions, we either neglect to care for the world that sustains us or believe that we are entitled to take the easy route and it is the rest of the world’s job to recycle or refrain from the use of plastic. This can be applied to shoplifting, fudging numbers on work reports or data, or an innumerable number of societal problems as well as numerous environmental problems such as the depletion of tropical rainforests for wood, palm oil, or subpar farmland. This practice saves us from problems that only become an issue in the aggregate of a worldwide human society.

These tenets are based upon the belief that man is a social animal. It is based on the belief that we should all act this way for the betterment of mankind. We can only act in good faith that others will do the same. I cannot claim to be perfect on these issues, I am human and mess up more often than not. But I like to believe that as I grow older and wiser, I consistently move in the right direction and become a better human and a better citizen of planet earth. I hope we can all do the same together.

(Picture found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/locosteve/5546134597/in/pool-creative_commons-_free_pictures/)